Central Mallby Marya Barlow

It wasn’t the group celebration President Erika Beck hoped for, but it was momentous nonetheless. On September 24, Beck stood on the newly completed Central Mall at CSUCI and cut a red ribbon dedicating the space to the Dolphins – past, present and future – who made it possible.

“You have helped transform this special place into the heart of the CSUCI campus,” she said to supporters in a dedication ceremony held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Thanks to you, it has become the spot where students can gather, learn and engage, and where we will celebrate the achievement of their highest educational aspirations: commencement. Once we return to campus, we look forward to celebrating this space with our students and community at many future commencements and other events that will be taking place right here.”

A video of the dedication ceremony, viewable at: go.csuci.edu/cm-dedication, captures the Central Mall and campus in majestic images and heartfelt tributes. The ceremony kicks off with a Chumash blessing led by Raudel Bañuelos, CSUCI Director of Facility Support and Chumash elder. William “Bill” Kearney, a founding supporter of the University and CSUCI Foundation Board member, shares the history of Central Mall and thanks the 1,495 donors who contributed to its evolution.

“The 60,000-square-foot Central Mall represents much more than aesthetic improvement to an already beautiful campus,” Kearney said. “It symbolizes our collective hope and vision that our graduates will lead our region’s future and economic prosperity.”

The event closes with comments from Associate Professor of Physics Greg Wood and Student Government President Sophie Nguyễn.

“Some of my most cherished memories on our campus have been at the fun events and gatherings – connecting with students, clubs and organizations at tabling events and hanging out with friends and fellow classmates – all at the heart of our campus, Central Mall,” said Nguyễn. “On behalf of my fellow Dolphins, the students of CSUCI, I would like to thank our donors and supporters for your philanthropic contributions to make all of this possible.”

Renovations began in 2012 to transform the Central Mall from an asphalt roadway into a park-like pedestrian plaza. Over the next eight years, in three separate phases, it progressed with tranquil gardens with native plants, decomposed granite walkways, benches, permeable pavers, and an iconic centerpiece fountain where new students dip their hands in a shared tradition to begin their journeys as Dolphins.

The Central Mall was also expanded to welcome the growing record classes of graduates, along with their friends and families, who celebrate the conclusion of their CSUCI journeys there in the commencement ceremony. At the 2019 commencement, more than 21,000 guests celebrated a graduating class of over 2,700.

Until ceremonies can take place again in person, the Central Mall remains a quiet haven symbolizing the power and beauty of community support. The heart of the CSUCI campus is waiting to beat once again with the echoes of applause.

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© Fall 2020 / Volume 25 / Number 2 / Biannual

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