Stanislaus State President Ellen Junn welcomed the campus community back for her fourth annual Fall Welcome Address on Monday afternoon that celebrated not only the past success of the school, but how new collaborations and exciting expansions will help the university grow in the years to come.
Since earning the job as Stanislaus State’s 11th president in 2016, Junn has helped Turlock’s university accomplish much throughout her first three years at its helm, from achieving national rankings to making significant strides forward for diversity and inclusion — things which haven’t gone unnoticed by university faculty, as Academic Senate Speaker Dr. Steven Filling pointed out.
“I’ve been at Stanislaus for a quarter of a century now and I can say in one sense we are living in the best of times. We have a President who is genuinely and deeply invested in shared governance and building the inclusive community that will enable us to continue to live up to our well-deserved reputation as a transformational university,” Filling said. “In another sense, this is far from the best of times. Racism and white supremacy are tearing our country apart. Our economy is teetering on the brink of a downturn, which will inevitably mean that we need to work a lot harder to convince the state of California that funding for the CSU must be a priority.”
In her address, Junn shared just how the campus has worked to become a welcoming space for all, but also an enticing one.
For the first time, a new tradition was started on Monday as, prior to her speech, Junn formally — and respectfully — recognized that the Stanislaus State campus was built on the unceded, ancestral lands of the Yokut tribe. Junn announced members of the Yokut tribe will celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the campus by planting a ceremonial oak tree and indigenous garden.
From days-old traditions like the recognition of the Yokuts’ land to ideas that have long taken flight, like Stanislaus State’s Diversity Center, or its joint task force with the City of Turlock, the university aims to be a leader in social justice awareness, Junn said. This, coupled with top rankings in publications like Forbes, The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report, is attracting students in record numbers.
“As a university, we’re accomplishing great things and have our eyes focused on doing even more great things in the future. But our primary task — indeed the reason all of us come to work every day — is our desire to improve our region, one graduate at a time,” Junn said.
Stanislaus State’s Class of 2019 saw its largest graduating class yet with 3,562 students earning a degree, and for the past four years, the university has consecutively welcomed its largest freshman class. The incoming Class of 2023 is comprised of 1,607, and the new class of transfers also amounts to the most in school history with 1,405.
Of the incoming freshmen, 79 percent are first-generation college students, or the first in their families to earn a four-year college degree. One of those first-generation students is freshman David Magallanes, who hopes to graduate from Stanislaus State in three years on his journey to become a business attorney.
He’s the oldest of five siblings, he said, and feels honored to serve as a role model for them.
“You’re making the path for them. It’s a challenge that comes with its own weight, but you feel obligated to give them that support that they need as your siblings,” Magallanes said.
Magallanes and the other freshmen were welcomed by Junn at the Freshman Convocation earlier in the day — a tradition started by the president upon her arrival at the university. The official ceremony commemorates the beginning of each student’s academic journey with plenty of fun features, from free food to face painting.
“It was nice to see all of the professors and the President in their robes and seeing them give their speeches,” freshman Sophia Deponte said. “That was really awesome to hear because the next time we’ll see and hear that is at graduation.”
To accommodate the ever-growing freshman classes at Stanislaus State, Junn touched on projects already underway at the university as well as new endeavors planned for the future.
The university’s new Student Center will open later this academic year, Junn said, while the Library Building Renovation project is expected to be completed within the next two. Modular buildings will physically take the library’s place during that time, and Junn applauded the effort for causing little disruption to the flow of work across the rest of the campus.
Junn also announced that the university has submitted a proposal for a new classroom building to the Chancellor’s Office and is hoping to hear back soon on how much funding the project could receive. If all goes according to plan, she said, the contemporary, up-to-date facility could be open by the fall semester of 2024.
The new building will be located on the east side of campus, next to the Naraghi Hall of Science, and is set to include 33 general classrooms with 1,422 seats, 138 faculty offices, six specialized lecture classrooms and six specialized labs.
More expansions will come via the Stockton Campus as well, Junn added, with Stanislaus State increasing the number of undergraduate degrees designated through its Warriors on the Way program from three to six. An on-site health nurse and recreational services will also be available at the Stockton Campus this year.
To meet the needs of the Stockton Campus’ anticipated growth, a new building will be necessary there as well: a three-story, 118,000 square foot project is in the works, which will bring three stories of space to the Stockton space by 2025.
Through partnerships moving forward, Junn hopes to spark the desire in students to not only come to Stanislaus State, but to stay and contribute to Turlock after graduating. The university's newest initiative, CareerReadyU Stanislaus State is partnering with local businesses and employers to prepare and recruit students for jobs in the region. The City of Turlock Mayor’s Office is the first official partner of the program, Junn said.
“Mayor (Amy) Bublak and Maryn Pitt, also a Stan State alumna, are excited to open the doors of City Hall and invite our students to learn and understand more about city government and careers in city government,” Junn said.
Junn took questions from the audience following her address and Magallanes was one of the first to approach the microphone. He asked the President what advice she would give to incoming freshmen.
“Make sure you study and do well in your courses, but the most important thing I can say is get involved,” Junn said. “The more involved you are, the stronger your connections with people...so please just don’t drive onto campus, take notes and then drive home. Get involved.”