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New president at Cal State Northridge named

March 22, 2012 |  2:05 pm

Harrison_Dianne_2Dianne F. Harrison, a veteran educator in Florida and California, was named Thursday as the new president of California State University Northridge.

Harrison will succeed Jolene Koester, who retired in December after 11 years in the post. Northridge provost Harold Hellenbrand has been serving as interim president.

Since 2006, Harrison has been president of Cal State Monterey Bay, a campus of about 5,000 students located on the former Ft. Ord Army Base in Seaside. At Northridge, she will assume the reins of one of the nation’s largest public universities with 34,000 students and a budget of more than $300 million.

The campus is the only public four-year university in the San Fernando Valley and is home to the $125-million Valley Performing Arts Center, a long-held dream for a campus that took years to rebound from devastating destruction caused by the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

“I am excited and honored to be selected as president of another fine institution within the California State University system, and look forward to working together with the entire campus community on the many opportunities for the future,” Harrison said in a statement.

Her selection caps a three-month search by the Board of Trustees during which Cal State leaders have faced scrutiny over executive pay and tuition increases, and as all 23 campuses have been forced to deal with reducing enrollment and classes in the face of $750 million in state funding cuts.

If the state falls short on revenue, another $200 million could be cut next year. To deal with that possibility, the Cal State system will close most new admissions in spring 2013 and could turn away 25,000 students the following fall.

Harrison, 61, had a 30-year career at Florida State University, serving in various capacities including faculty member, dean of social work and vice president for academic quality and external programs. She earned degrees in American studies and social work from the University of Alabama and holds a Ph.D in social work from Washington University in St. Louis.

Her research expertise includes HIV prevention among women and minority populations and higher education leadership.

“Dr. Harrison brings an outstanding portfolio of administrative experience, academic credential and student-focused approach to her new position as president of Cal State Northridge,” said Trustee A. Robert Linscheid, who was chairman of the presidential search committee. “She has an impressive record of accomplishments, a commitment to scholarship and will provide strong leadership as the campus moves forward.”

Harrsion is expected to take up her new post in June. Her salary will be set by the board at a future meeting. She earns a base salary of $270,315 at Monterey Bay, with housing provided. Koester made $295,000 at Northridge, also with university housing provided.


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Photo: Dianne F. Harrison, incoming president of Cal State Northridge. Credit: California State University.