Lisa A. Rossbacher, who has served as President of Humboldt State University since 2014, announced today that she will retire from the California State University system after the 2018-19 academic year.
In a message to the HSU community, President Rossbacher said that she had enjoyed serving as president, but the timing was right to move to the next stage of her career. She had discussed her plans over the summer with CSU Chancellor Timothy White.
“This was not an easy decision, as I very much enjoy being part of this campus community,” she wrote. “I am inspired each day by our amazing students and by the commitment of our faculty and staff.”
President Rossbacher also used her message to highlight some areas of recent success for the University, including: a sustainable budget, improved graduation rates, investment in student support programs, efforts related to diversity and equity, and additional tenure-line faculty positions.
CSU Chancellor Timothy White praised President Rossbacher for her commitment and achievements at HSU.
“While working in one of the CSU’s most unique environments, President Rossbacher’s long-standing commitment to improving student success was always apparent,” White said. “She has led the campus to steady growth in graduation rates, and I am pleased to say that Humboldt State is graduating students at record numbers. Her leadership of a campus-wide collaborative effort also resulted in recent reaccreditation from the WASC Senior College and University Commission. To eliminate a persistent structural deficit in the campus budget, she made difficult but necessary decisions in order to put HSU on a solid path. I commend and thank President Rossbacher for her leadership at HSU, her previous service as a member of the faculty and administration at Cal Poly Pomona, and her dedication to the CSU mission.”
The CSU will soon launch a national search for President Rossbacher’s successor. Under university policy, the chairman of the CSU Trustees, Adam Day, and Chancellor Timothy White will select a committee made up of various campus stakeholders who will be publicly announced at a later date. Campus and community input will be sought in an open forum held on campus.
During the remainder of 2018-19, President Rossbacher says she will focus on goals she outlined during her Fall Welcome. These include the ongoing initiatives related to student success, strengthening a welcoming and supportive community for HSU’s growing diversity, achieving a balanced budget, and addressing the recommendations from the recent review by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
During her time at HSU, President Rossbacher has focused on promoting student success, developing a sustainable budget, and aligning programs with the core mission of the University. She led development of the 2015-20 strategic plan, which includes four overriding goals: (1) supporting student success, (2) developing a welcoming and safe environment for diverse populations, (3) expanding partnerships with local communities, and (4) being a good steward of resources, including fiscal, physical, and intellectual resources.
President Rossbacher has been actively engaged in the Equity Alliance of the North Coast and Equity Arcata, both of which bring together multiple stakeholders to create a community that is welcoming and supportive of diversity and inclusion. She also re-instituted the University’s Native American Advisory Council and this year began serving as the presidential liaison to the CSU’s Native American Initiative.
Some successes during her presidency include:
-- Four-year graduation rates at HSU reached an all-time high of 21 percent, while six-year graduation rates increased to 52 percent.
-- HSU’s accreditation was reaffirmed for an eight-year period by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
-- A sustainable budget plan was developed and the University is on track to have a balanced budget for the 2019-20 academic year. This is a reversal from four years ago, when the University had been running deficits and was on the verge of exhausting its operating reserve fund. A modest operating reserve fund and capital reserve fund have now been created. Under new CSU guidelines, campuses are expected to build capital reserves so that they can contribute funds to build new facilities.
-- Significant investments were made in new tenure-line faculty, and the student-to-faculty ratio has gone from 22:1 to 20:1.
-- Important investments were made in student support programs, including the Cultural Centers for Academic Excellence, the RAMP student mentor program, advising, and mental health programs.
-- New place-based learning communities were created to support students in the sciences and natural resources. Based on initial success in persistence and other factors, new learning communities have recently launched for other students, including those who are undecided on a major.
-- New grants for research and sponsored programs reached over $23 million annually. HSU researchers are currently leading hundreds of grant-funded projects with a total value of more than $86 million.
-- HSU earned a gold rating for its sustainability efforts from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, highlighting the University’s role as a higher education leader in sustainability.
-- Faculty and students from HSU provided statewide leadership in conducting research, making policy recommendations, and implementing local programs to address student food and housing insecurity.
President Rossbacher is the seventh president of Humboldt State University. She came to HSU after serving as president of Southern Polytechnic State University in Georgia, and had previously served as a faculty member and administrator at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Whittier College, and Dickinson College. She was the first woman geologist to become a university president in North America.
President Rossbacher graduated from Dickinson College with a degree in Geology, received master’s degrees from the State University of New York at Binghamton (now Binghamton University) and Princeton University, and earned her Ph.D. in Geological and Geophysical Sciences at Princeton University. She has authored books on geology, science, and the media. Her research interests focus on the role of water and water ice on the planet Mars, and in 1984, she was a finalist in NASA’s astronaut selection process.