A Conversation With:
California State University, Northridge
How long have you been volunteering in the community?
I have been volunteering in each community I have lived in for my entire 40-year career. I have been volunteering in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley for the last 5 years since my arrival at California State University, Northridge (CSUN).
How long have you been volunteering for The Valley Economic Alliance?
I have been volunteering for The Valley Economic Alliance (TVEA) for about 5 years. I have served on TVEA Board of Directors since my arrival to the area in 2012 when I was appointed President of CSUN.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am an academic who has spent the entirety of my career in public higher education as a faculty member and researcher before transitioning to administrative and leadership roles 23 years ago. My academic discipline is social work, which is a people oriented profession that uses persuasion, problem solving, communication skills, collaboration, advocacy, and community engagement to get the job done. We value diversity, inclusion, and social justice.
Prior to CSUN, I served as President of California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) for 6 years. Both CSUN and CSUMB are part of the 23-campus California State University system, the largest public higher education system in the country. Before coming to California, I spent 30 years at Florida State University, a large, public research institution with more than 40,000 students. It was there that I began my administrative career, which included appointments as Dean of Graduate Studies, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Vice President for Academic Quality and External Programs. I feel fortunate to have had colleagues who supported and mentored me.
At CSUN, I lead a campus that many have described as a “small city.” We are one of the largest employers in the Valley, with 4,000 faculty and staff, serving nearly 40,000 students. Along with a network of more than 340,000 alumni, many of whom still reside in the local community.
I am proud of the broad, wide-ranging impact CSUN has had in the Valley and the region. A recent report found that CSUN has an economic impact of nearly $1.9 billion, led to the creation of more than 11,700 jobs, and that the presence of CSUN has created substantial economic value, increasing output and adding a large number of primarily middle-income jobs in Los Angeles County and across the state. As an institution of higher education committed to developing the fullest potential of its students, we foster the next generation of leaders, innovators and workers through our diverse and arduous undergraduate and graduate programs.
On the personal front, I am a resident of Northridge with my husband, John Wujack, who is a great asset to me and the university. I have two wonderful children who are now adults and out of the house. My eldest daughter just welcomed our first grandchild!
For more information visit my LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/dianne-f-harrison-2394a126
What is one of your Passion Projects that you are working on?
Though CSUN has several key planning goals that serve to focus the university’s efforts, the top priority that drives all our efforts and priorities is student success. Indeed, an unrelenting focus on student success is a passion project for the entire campus community and I. This goal encompasses a variety of components and efforts. For example, engagement in workforce development is critical. We ask if there will be jobs for our students at graduation and/or will our students meet the emerging workforce needs of our community.
Driving a culture of innovation on campus is also a personal priority. Of course, the health and well-being of our students is paramount as well, so I engage both locally and nationally on issues related to sexual assault prevention and healthy relationships. I am equally passionate and vocal about sustainability because I believe it is important for everyone to be good stewards of our communities and resources. These are “pet” projects for me. I cannot slow down on any facet of the student experience!
Why do you continue to be a member of The Valley Economic Alliance?
I am a member of TVEA because their mission to advance the economic vitality and stability of the region is closely aligned with CSUN’s commitment to serve the community. As an employer, and more importantly, a higher education institution that is tasked with creating opportunities for students to grow personally and professionally, and nurturing their talents, knowledge and skills to advance the economic and social well-being of their communities, we are proud to be partners with TVEA. It is in all of our best interests that well-paying jobs are available to our students when they graduate. TVEA is helping to achieve that goal.