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Administration reflects on pandemic struggles, welcomes back Beach community during annual meeting

Hosting its first in-person event since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Long Beach State focused on positive strides in its repopulation efforts on Friday, August 20, during its annual assembly, highlighting campus and social change at CSULB.

The 2021 Convocation, presented in front of a moderate-sized crowd at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, is an annual event held prior to the start of the school year. Students, faculty, and staff gather to welcome new members to campus, highlight recent achievements, and share ideas heading into future terms.

This year, President Jane Close Conoley acknowledged the past 18 months of struggles that Long Beach State has had to endure, including canceling events due to the pandemic, which harmed CSULB’s economic well-being, protests that saw large groups of people coming together to raise their voices against racial injustice, and everyone adjusting to new workplace environments.

“We’ve been separated from coworkers, friends, and extended families, and we’ve had to live in a remarkably ambiguous context,” Conoley said. “We knew this amplification of needs affected our students.”

Provost and senior vice president Karyn Scissum Gunn speaks at the 2021 Long Beach State convocation.
Provost and senior vice president Karyn Scissum Gunn speaks at the 2021 Long Beach State convocation. Photo credit: Lauren Ramirez

Recently appointed Provost and Senior Vice President Karyn Scissum Gunn, who replaced Brian Jersky following his retirement, displayed her enthusiasm about the opportunities to improve the Long Beach State community in her first in-person event but acknowledged the change that has affected the lives of many on campus.

“Welcome back feels different though this year, doesn’t it?” she said. “The happiness of reuniting with who we know and admire, or enjoy working with, is admittedly blunted by the lingering effect of this year and a half and frankly, what still lies ahead.”

Gunn said that she learned of the Long Beach effect when she first became associated with the California State University system five years ago, recognizing “the system-wide level of high regard for the way the beach pursues its educational mission.”

“From the outside perspective, Cal State Long Beach’s accomplishments, accolades, and awards are evident,” she said.

Associated Students, Inc. president Jesus Gonzalez gives a speech at the 2021 CSULB convocation.
ASI president Jesus Gonzalez gives a speech at the 2021 CSULB convocation. Photo credit: Lauren Ramirez

Associated Student, Inc. President Jesus Gonzalez spoke about some of the efforts his organization is this upcoming school year, primarily focusing on helping undocumented students obtain more resources to succeed at a collegiate level.

“One of my top initiatives for this year is the implementation of an assistance program for undocumented students,” he said. “Being an undocumented student myself, this effort is close to my heart.”

The program will reduce food insecurities by providing food resources to undocumented students, international students, and AB540 who do not normally qualify for the Cal Fresh Benefits.

With the initiative, Cal State Long Beach would be the first CSU to implement the program.

After reflecting on the past two years, Conoley looked to the future, including discussing the plans for the new student housing project that had been finished in late July, the first new housing building on campus in 34 years.

The new dorm, located at the far northwest corner of campus along Atherton Street, adds 472 beds to the housing complex while featuring dedicated study spaces, kitchens, a laundry room, and other amenities.

The new housing complex is the CSU’s first “net-zero energy Living Building Challenge Petals Certified and LEED Platinum” residential building, which focuses on using renewable energy to create more sustainable projects.

Lauren Ramirez contributed to this article.

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