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Britt Rios-Ellis appointed as next Stan State president
Britt Rios-Ellis
Oakland University’s Britt Rios-Ellis is set to become the 12th president of Stanislaus State later this year after being appointed by the CSU Board of Trustees on Wednesday morning (Photo courtesy of the California State University).

Britt Rios-Ellis, who currently serves as provost and executive vice president of Academic Affairs at Oakland University in Michigan, was officially appointed as the 12th full-time president in Stanislaus State’s 67-year history during the CSUs Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday morning. 

Rios-Ellis will assume the university presidency on July 1, succeeding Interim President Susan E. Borrego, who has served in the role since the retirement of President Emerita Ellen Junn in summer 2023. 

“I am both honored and humbled to serve this outstanding university alongside the talented faculty, staff, administrators and students at Stanislaus State, and to be the first new president selected under the leadership of Chancellor Mildred García,” Rios-Ellis said in a press release. “I am eager to get to know the Turlock and Stockton communities and work together to ensure that the positive impact of our students’ and the university’s overall success is felt profoundly throughout the region.”

The appointment comes after a nearly five-month search and interview process conducted by the California State University’s Presidential Search Committee, which is appointed by the chair of the CSU Trustees per board policy. The committee was composed of representatives from the faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as a member of a campus advisory board. They were selected by the campus's constituency groups. Also on the Advisory Committee was a vice president or academic dean from the campus, and a president of another CSU campus—both selected by the chancellor.

“Dr. Rios-Ellis is an inspirational, compassionate and mission-driven leader, guided by a commitment to inclusive excellence and student success,” said CSU Trustee Yammilette Rodriguez, chair of the Stanislaus State Presidential Search Committee. “Her wide-ranging experience, student-centered approach and commitment to broader community engagement make her the ideal candidate to lead Stanislaus State in its next exciting chapter.”

Prior to Borrego taking over in the interim role, Stanislaus State’s previous 11 presidents were Junn (2016-2023), Joseph F. Sheley (2012-2016), Hamid Shirvani (2005-2012), Marvalene Hughes (1994-2005), Lee Kerschner (1992-1994), John Moore (1985-1992), Walter Olson (1975-1985), Carl Gatlin (1969-1975), Alexander Capurso (1963-1969), Gerard Crowley (1962-1963) and founding president J. Burton Vasche (1960-1962).

The appointment marks a return to the CSU system for Rios-Ellis. After she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish, a master’s degree in health and fitness management, and a Ph.D. in community health—all from the University of Oregon, Rios-Ellis served as a faculty member in the Department of Health Science at California State Long Beach from 1994 to 2014. 

During that time from 2005 to 2015, she also served as founding director of CSULB’s Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation, and Leadership Training in alliance with UnidosUS. She was recognized with a CSULB Outstanding Professor Award in 2013 for her significant impact on Latino health research and education, and was named Woman of the Year by the National Hispanic Business Women’s Association in 2010 and the Regional Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2009. Additionally, in 2008, she received the Sol Award from the Los Angeles County Office of HIV/AIDS Planning Prevention. 

From 2014 to 2020, Rios-Ellis served as founding dean of the College of Health Sciences and Human Services at Monterey Bay State, where she led fundraising and strategic planning efforts and co-founded the Master of Science Physician Assistant Program—the first of its kind in the CSU. 

Since joining the Oakland University leadership team in 2021, the institution has seen an 8% increase in retention of underrepresented students. According to a CSU press release, Rios-Ellis has worked with faculty to increase research activity, with the OU Senate to strengthen shared governance, and with deans and faculty to establish new and needed academic programs. She also coordinated successful fundraising and budget realignment efforts for the university and led an initiative to secure OU’s Carnegie elective classification for Community Engagement.  In all, Rios-Ellis has led over $59 million in student- and community-​strengthening health and education-related efforts funded by agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Education, as well as in collaboration with industry partners to reinforce workforce pipelines.