By Pamela Dean
Provost Mitch Avila

When you ask Mitch Avila, Ph.D. to sum up the mission of CSUCI and his core purpose as its new Provost, he will show you a picture of a simple wooden chair created by Ray and Charles Eames, the icons of midcentury industrial design.

“The Eames’ motto was ‘We design the best for the most for the least,’” he explains. “That’s what we do here at CSUCI and in the CSU. That’s what defines my role as Provost. We provide the best instruction, for the most amount of students possible, and as a state-funded public institution — for the least amount of cost.”

That philosophy informs Avila’s work and is the foundation of his vision for the campus over the next five to seven years.

A 27-year-veteran of the CSU, Avila began his career as a full-time lecturer at Fresno State and moved on to philosophy professor, department chair and associate dean for Academic Programs within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Cal State Fullerton. He most recently was dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at CSU Dominguez Hills.

As Provost, Avila is the senior academic administrator for the University. He is in charge of all academic programing and faculty hiring. He began his role in early January, in the midst of the pandemic. His immediate goals were straight forward and narrowly focused — center his team’s energies on providing the highest quality student experience during this challenging period.

“Our main focus during the Spring semester was to teach courses well. This is a very difficult time, people are under a lot of stress. Our students are under a lot of stress. We need to simply focus on the primary work of instruction.”

At the same time, he is setting the stage to launch major initiatives in the Fall of 2021. And with the confident ease of the seasoned CSU veteran that he is, he ticks off those future initiatives:

Growing the campus and adding academic programs that match the needs of the workforce.

Ensuring all students are career ready upon graduation. Hiring more tenure track and diverse faculty. Improving communication within Academic Affairs so that everyone has the opportunity to hear what is going on. Improving working conditions for lecture faculty. Developing career pathways for staff and investing in the scholarly and creative activities of faculty.

“We provide the best instruction, for the most amount of students possible, and as a state-funded public institution — for the least amount of cost.” –Mitch Avila

While all these initiatives are critical, it is the last one that Avila feels is especially important.

“Investing in faculty scholarship and creative activity will enable the campus to grow and flourish. This is important to the long-term trajectory of the University,” he emphasized.

According to Avila, when faculty are active scholars or artists, it adds value to the student experience and helps prepare graduates with the skills employers are looking for.

“Faculty who are active scholars and artists are the ideal instructors to transfer to students the skills needed to create new knowledge and new applications in our dynamic economy,” he explained.

Eames chair

In the short time he has been with CSUCI, Avila has been impressed with the University, the quality of the management team, the exceptional people and the positive morale among the teams that have been built.

He aims to make a lasting impact and help prepare the campus for the future.

“I am deeply committed to the mission of CSUCI. The equity work we do is very important. I understand where the campus wants to go and how to move it forward,” he said and added his signature comment: “Good things ahead!”

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© Spring 2021 / Volume 26 / Number 1 / Biannual

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