CSUSM President talks response to pandemic

Dr. Patricia L. Prado-OlmosDr. Patricia L. Prado-Olmos
Vice Preident of Community Engagement
California State University San Marcos

When Cal State San Marcos held its 17th Report to the Community in early February, it was a novel event. It was the first Report to the Community in the history of CSUSM that took place virtually, a reminder of the far-reaching impact of the coronavirus pandemic on higher education.

Report to the Community is an annual tradition in which CSUSM’s president spotlights the university’s achievements to a broad cross section of regional business, nonprofit, education and government leaders. This year, the overarching theme of President Ellen Neufeldt’s address was the university’s focus on its mission during the pandemic while looking to the future. CSUSM has responded to the crisis in many ways to keep serving its students and the community, while also planning for recovery and how the university will confront a post-pandemic world.

Ellen Neufeldt

President Ellen Neufeldt speaks to a virtual audience during the annual Report to the Community,

“Despite the difficulties of this time, we continue to get up every morning with the same sense of purpose and mission,” Neufeldt said, “to be the engine of this region, partnering with you to solve our most pressing issues and preparing our students to be the leaders of our changing future.”

On Jan. 31, CSUSM became one of the San Diego County-operated “super stations” in the region, with the capacity to vaccinate as many as 5,000 people per day as the county’s supply increases. The super-station host status is the outcome of a partnership with the county, Tri-City Medical Center, Palomar Health and UC San Diego Health.

Meanwhile, CSUSM continues to host a county-run COVID-19 testing site that has served up to 2,500 individuals per day in its six months of existence, playing a critical role in the county’s efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“As an anchor institution of North County, contributing to the health and well-being of our region is a vital and foundational part of our mission,” Neufeldt said. “We are grateful for the opportunity to serve our community.”

Neufeldt spotlighted other examples of the leadership and resolve that CSUSM displayed after the pandemic struck last spring. Faculty brought their courses online, with almost no advance notice, in a matter of days.  Staff worked rapidly to ensure that students would have access to the services and resources they would need in a virtual setting, while also facing immediate challenges related to health and safety.

To celebrate its 2020 graduating class in the absence of a traditional commencement ceremony, CSUSM dreamed up a safe, creative event billed as Graduates on Parade, which attracted national media attention as one of the first graduation parades of its kind. And, last summer CSUSM became the first campus in the California State University system to gain approval of its fall 2020 operation proposal.

“People at every level of this university went beyond the call of duty, raised their hands to volunteer, and stepped up when the moment called for it,” Neufeldt said.

Looking ahead to the next academic year, Neufeldt reiterated the university’s intention to return to campus on a modified basis this fall. CSUSM is working through various repopulation scenarios, with several different committees established to deal with the many issues involved in going back to an in-person university.

Two accolades were handed out before Neufeldt’s remarks: the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency received the CSUSM Community Partner of the Year Award, and Javier Guerrero received the Fran Aleshire Leadership Award, given to an outstanding regional leader who reflects the spirit and character of the late Fran Aleshire, who designed the program that’s now called Leadership North County. Guerrero is the president and CEO of Coastal Roots Farm in Encinitas.