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Founding Cal State Channel Islands President Reflects On 15 Years In Office As He Prepares To Retire

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Cal State Channel Islands President Dr. Richard Rush (in red) with members of this years CSUCI graduating class

It was the opportunity of a lifetime: to come to California, and become president of a California State University campus.

There was one catch: and it was a big one. It had no faculty, and the campus was leftover buildings from a shuttered state mental hospital in Camarillo. In 2001, Dr. Richard Rush took on that challenge, as the founding president of Cal State Channel Islands.

15 years, and some 10,000 graduates later, Cal State Channel Islands has developed a reputation as an institution on the move.

Rush was President of Minnesota State University in Mankato before deciding to take on the challenge of opening the newest Cal State University campus, number 23 in the system.

It was tough in the beginning. He had a budget of $12 million dollars to hire faculty, and get enough buildings in shape to hold classes. The state’s tight funding for universities didn’t help the situation, and then, there was the recession, which led to cuts in the meager state budget for the Camarillo campus.

Rush realized from the beginning to add buildings, and programs, they won’t be able to do it in the normal way, which is standing in line for state funding. He turned to the same people who fought for Ventura County to get its own four year public university, getting a number of grants. Others helped by donating materials, and labor to building things like walkways.

The university is now considered a model in the Cal State system on coming up with unique financing approaches for new construction, in lieu of virtually non-existent state funding for major projects. While Rush is retiring, what he helped create will continue to grow.

CSUCI now has more than 6000 undergraduate students, 24 majors, and perhaps its most impressive statistic, 56% of its enrollment is first generation college students.