Leading the CI Way

President Richard R. Rush and baccalaureate candidates

By Lori Putnam

It was 10 years ago this summer that Dr. Richard R. Rush assumed the role of president for California State University Channel Islands, and in doing so, forever defined what it means to do things the “CI way.”

“The privilege and rare opportunity of starting a university from scratch is what attracted me,” said Rush of CSU’s youngest campus. “I had been president of a university close to 135 years old, and I had some clear ideas of what I hoped this university would be.”

Before the first students had arrived on campus, Rush was building the foundation for a university that placed students at the center of the educational experience. His vision was, and remains today, a vision of a higher education institution leading the way into the 21st century with new thinking and processes, sound research, and a commitment to student success.

Reflecting on those early days on campus, Rush is the first to credit what he called an outstanding cadre of staff and faculty who continue to do exceptional work, even in the face of continuing budget cuts. “They have fulfilled the hopes of this region for a public university the community could be proud of after so many decades of trying to establish it,” said Rush.

Over the last 10 years, the CI community has grown to more than 3,800 students, 22 majors, and a thriving campus complete with a state-of-the-art library and student union. Rush is quick to point to the achievements of students, staff, and faculty, including professors in biology, chemistry, and math who have been recognized by the National Science Foundation. The University also has founded innovative learning centers such as the California Institute for Social Business and Institute for Global Economic Research, and has a growing list of partners including Cottage Health System, Southern California Edison, and Verizon to help support cutting-edge programs.

Among these milestones, Rush points to the University obtaining full accreditation — on the first day of eligibility — as a memorable day in the life of CI. He also counts the many student leaders at CI as an ongoing point of pride for the University. “Over the years I have been very impressed with our student leaders and their innovation in creating exceptional student activities and programs to benefit the entire campus, said Rush. “I’m particularly proud of our students who have demonstrated their academic excellence by winning state and national awards in the fields of mathematics, biology, and media art against much larger and established institutions.”

His own leadership has not gone untested, most recently by way of a minimum $500 million reduction in state support to the California State University system. Additional reductions could potentially devastate the system’s 23 campuses with long-lasting negative consequences for student access to higher education. Despite these challenges, the CI culture remains collegial and collaborative, even earning the University the distinction of being named one of the top colleges to work for by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed stated, “Dr. Rush is an energetic, dedicated, motivated, and very capable president who is whole-heartedly committed to the success of CSU Channel Islands and its students, staff, and faculty. He has seen the campus through a most challenging set of circumstances: the development of a new university, coupled with the worst budgetary cutbacks the CSU system has ever experienced. He has developed academic programs and opportunities that have bolstered the University’s reputation throughout the region and state.”

“Dr. Rush leads by example,” added Steve Blois, chair of the CI Foundation. “He’s a hard worker who expects a lot, but who also produces a lot. His legacy will be setting us on the right path and never compromising.”

And it is that path, set a decade go, that will guide the University to its next chapter. It will be neither a simple nor easy journey, but then the CI way has never been to back away from a challenge.

A Decade of Milestones


(June)  Dr. Rush assumes his duties as university president;
(Aug)  First 13 planning faculty members arrive on campus


(March)  Academic Master Plan approved;
(April)  Inauguration ceremonies held for President Rush;
(Aug)  Opening ceremonies held for the University and first 250 transfer students begin classes


(May)  Inaugural Commencement ceremony with three transfer students honored as first to graduate;
(Aug)  Inaugural freshman students begin classes;
(Sept)  Grand opening and dedication of new science building, Aliso Hall


(June)  History and Psychology undergraduate degrees approved for launch;
(Aug)  Grand opening and dedication of first on-campus housing for students, Anacapa Village;
(Oct)  Economics and Chemistry undergraduate degrees approved for launch; master’s in Biotechnology/Bioinformatics, Business, and Education approved for launch


(Jan)  Dedication held for “Aspirations” a dolphin fountain and sculpture;
(May)  First honorary doctorate degrees presented to John Spoor Broome and Robert J. Lagomarsino;
(Oct)  Ground breaking ceremony for the John Spoor Broome Library


(Jan)  Naming of the first school as the Martin V. Smith School of Business & Economics;
(May)  First group of master’s students graduate;
(Nov)  Prop 1D is approved by California voters allocating $62 million for campus improvement projects


(May)  Inaugural freshman class graduates;
(Jul)  WASC notification of initial accreditation granted for the maximum of seven years;
(Aug)  Grand opening and dedication of student on-campus housing, Santa Cruz Village; Nursing program launched with first 66 students


(April)  Grand opening and dedication of the John Spoor Broome Library;
(Oct)  Land swap adding another 153 acres to the University


(April)  Grand opening and dedication of the Martin V. Smith Center for Integrative Decision-Making; 360 acres of land adjacent to the campus transferred by the County of Ventura to the University;
(Aug)  New formal and spirit logos launched


(Feb)  Launch of the California Institute for Social Business;
(March)  Grand opening and dedication of the new Student Union;
(April)  Designation by the U.S. Department of Education as an Hispanic Serving Institution;
(July)  Named a “Great College to Work For” by The Chronicle of Higher Education;
(Oct)  Ground breaking ceremony for North Hall;
(Nov)  Launch of the Henry L. “Hank” Lacayo Institute for Workforce & Community Studies; Ground breaking ceremony for new entrance road


(March)  Launch of the Institute for Global Economic Research; WASC approval for undergraduate and graduate degrees in business to be offered in Santa Barbara;
(May)  Ninth commencement ceremony held with honorary doctorate degree presented to Jack O’Connell

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