New administrators, prestigious wins, and much more.

Meet the Provost 

Portrait of Brian Jersky in front of the Lymon Lough fountain in Maxson Plaza.
New provost Brian Jersky says increasing campus involvement in the community is a priority.

The university’s new provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, Brian Jersky, officially started his new position this summer. His appointment was announced in January of this year, and he’s been eager to begin his post ever since.

“I feel honored and privileged to have been selected and I’m looking forward to working with a very strong leadership team and a very great and inspiring president,” said Jersky.

As provost, Jersky’s responsibilities include overseeing the quality of academic programs, faculty instruction and student learning, faculty research and creative activity, academic outreach and community partnerships, strategic planning, and budgetary allocations in support of academic priorities.

“[Cal State] Long Beach is in such a good place that the first thing to do is keep it in its good place,”

Jersky said, “and since everything that lives must grow, you’ve got to say, well, what’s the next good place we need to be at?”

Jersky joins CSULB after spending four years as dean of Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Science. He previously served as dean of the School of Science at Saint Mary’s College of California, and spent 15 years at Sonoma State serving in a variety of capacities including assistant professor of mathematics, chair of mathematics and director of academic planning and resources in the School of Science and Technology. He began his career at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he earned bachelor of science degrees in mathematical statistics/economics and mathematical statistics. He went on to earn an M.S. and Ph.D. in statistics from Cornell University.

As provost, Jersky will focus on key aspects such as increasing student success, increasing student opportunities on and off campus, opening the university to the community, and promoting diversity. But he aims to implement improvements gradually.

Best in the World

In their first trip to the competition, the Bob Cole Conservatory Chamber Choir took the top prize at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod held in Llangollen, Wales. The six-day event in July drew entries from around the world including Kyrgyzstan, Zimbabwe and the Philippines. The BCC Chamber Choir was awarded the coveted Pavarotti Trophy after winning the culminating “Choir of the World” event.

Winning choir of the world means so much. Not only are we a part of history but this is a memory that we will have for the rest of our lives. I’m so proud of what we have accomplished and I can’t wait to do it again. – Brittany Logan, fourth-year voice performance major

Winning the Choir of the World was a dream to me and to many of my students. In my 16 years at CSULB, I’ve never seen the choir more focused, more energized, or more committed to a singular goal.

– Dr. Jonathan Talberg, associate director of the Bob Cole Conservatory.

Representing our country in a competition like this, when there has been so much turmoil back at home, has been a very emotional experience. When we were dressed in our parade costumes celebrating our various cultural and ethnic backgrounds, I felt like we were showing what peace really looks like. – Marissa Di Camillo, fourth-year jazz voice performance major

Video courtesy of / copyright Rondo Media.

Fundraising Campaigns Bring New Opportunities to the Beach

Get your Dirtbag gear ready. A $17 million Blair Field Renovation Project is underway that will help to revitalize facilities, improve the athletic team, and increase fan satisfaction.

The renovation program is divided into four different phases of construction: create a 9,600-square-foot batting facility; a first-class clubhouse; new practice infield facility and upgrades to fan amenities.

Wayne Stickney, senior associate athletic director for Major Gifts and Resource Acquisition, said that while it is not known how long all the phases will take to complete – since improvements on the field are relying solely from contributions from alumni and friends – the generosity from donors has allowed for progress on renovations.

Investment of phase one was completed in early February, and we have already finished building the new outfield fence,” Stickney said. “On May 1, we began building the batting facility and the three mound bull pen, which we hope to complete in October.”

Stickney responded that while the campaign still needs additional funding to complete the project, a handful of professional alumni athletes have made some large contributions.

“Troy Tulowitzki and his wife stepped up and donated $1 million for the new batting facility,” Stickney said. “Also Jered Weaver made an announcement of a $500,000 commitment, Evan Longoria donated $100,000, and Jason Vargas committed $100,000.”

A woman wearing a green Breathe advocate t-shirt speaks to two people.
A rendering of the exterior of the planned Anna W. Ngai Alumni Center. Image courtesy of Alumni Relations.

Long time Beach Athletics supporter Marilyn Bohl also announced a $1 million commitment to the renovation project.

As the Blair Field campaign is working to change the game experience for the Dirtbags and fans, the Alumni Association is working to earn private contributions to build a brand new Alumni Center. When completed, the Alumni Center will provide a variety of learning experiences for current students and alumni, including networking and mentoring opportunities and entrepreneurial activities.

Janice Hatanaka, associate vice president for Alumni and University Relations, said that in addition to the Alumni Center functioning as a place for alumni to share their knowledge and experiences with students, the center will offer events exclusively to alumni.

“We will have pre-game alumni receptions, and they will be wonderful events that will bring them back,” Hatanaka said. “Also part of what we really want is an alumni showcase lounge to showcase our alumni and history. That is what the Alumni Center is all about, keeping the traditions and history of our university alive.”

Total construction of the building is expected to cost $12 million, and so far 40% of the campaign has been raised. Hatanaka said they hope to begin construction in Summer 2017, but they will not proceed with plans until all of the money has been acquired from funds.

Kathleen Hansen, president of the Alumni Association, has given to the campaign and expressed the importance for creating the center.

“I want us to have a meeting place, not only for current students, not only for alumni, but a place for both groups, so together we can create more community involvement,” Hansen said.

Campus Smoking Ban in Effect

The start of fall semester has brought in a new wave of freshmen and a change to campus policy. Starting this fall, the campus is now 100 percent smoke, vapor and tobacco-free. Prohibited areas include buildings, sidewalks and campus parking lots.

“CSULB joins CSU San Diego, CSUN, CSU San Jose and CSU Sonoma by prohibiting smoking and the use of tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, on all indoor and outdoor property,” said Claire Garrido-Ortega, co-chair of the president’s Tobacco Task Force. “CSULB, along with the other named CSU campuses, are ahead of Assembly Bill 1594.”

A woman wearing a green Breathe advocate t-shirt speaks to two people.
Clad in green t-shirts, advocates of the smoke, vapor and tobacco-free initiative educate students, faculty and staff about the new policy.

According to the California Legislative Information website, AB 1594 would start Jan. 1, 2018 and prohibit smoking, including the use of electronic smoking devices, and tobacco products on the campuses of California State Universities, and California Community Colleges.

The bill also states that enforcement of prohibition would be through a fine, not to exceed $100.

Garrido-Ortega said that as of now individuals found smoking, vaping or using tobacco products on campus will not be issued a fine, but instead will be educated about the new campus policy and provided information about resources available to them.

“Nicotine patches, nicotine gum and quit kits are available at the Health Resource Center,” Garrido-Ortega said.

In 2013, CSULB approved the smoking ban by 64 percent of voters, according to Associated Students, Inc.

Last October, President Jane Close Conoley launched a campus wide smoking ban campaign called “Breathe” to promote awareness of the health risks of tobacco use, and inform people of the impending policy change.

To promote further awareness about the Breathe campaign and ban, signs were distributed throughout the campus last spring and summer. Breathe advocates were also on campus to educate students, faculty, and staff about the new policy and to let them know about the services available to them if needed.

More signs will be distributed to bring awareness to the new rule during fall semester.

University Welcomes First CIO

Portrait of Min Yao near a campus building
Min Yao is the university’s first chief information officer.

In May, Cal State Long Beach, welcomed Min Yao as its new vice president and first chief information officer.

“I am really honored to be selected as the first ever VP [and] CIO for the campus. There are many talented faculty and staff and experienced administrators on campus,” said Yao. “I will do my upmost to help the campus align technology services with the campus’ strategic plan and help create a responsive and effective technology environment for faculty, students and staff.”

Yao has 18 years of information technology executive experience and most recently served as assistant vice chancellor for administrative computing and telecommunications at the University of California, San Diego. Before his time at UCSD, Yao served as vice president of information technology and CIO at Florida International University. He also served as CIO and associate vice president of information technology at Cal State Dominguez Hills, and was vice president for information technology at the College of the Siskiyous.

“My experience gained from my previous work will help the campus build a solid technology governance structure and realign technology services with the campus’ mission and strategic goals,” said Yao. “I hope that by working with the campus community… we can move forward to a more cohesive and coordinated approach to technology services, so that our limited resources can be spent more wisely and spent on where we need them the most,” Yao said.

Yao holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Dalian University of Foreign Languages, Dalian, China; M.A. in applied linguistics, Shanghai Maritime University, Shanghai, China; Ed.D. in educational administration, U.S. International University at San Diego; and Ph.D. in educational psychology with emphasis on statistics, testing and measurements from the University of British Columbia.

“Depth of technical and administrative experience, strategic vision and a strong record of working effectively with diverse teams of faculty, staff and students make Dr. Yao an excellent choice for this newly created position,” President Jane Close Conoley said.

Alumni Journalists Win Peabody Award and Pulitzer Prize

Caitlin Dickerson (2011, B.A., international studies), and Joseph “Joe” Serna (2006, B.A., journalism), are the winners of two prestigious journalism awards this year. Dickerson, an investigative reporter for NPR, was awarded the 2015 George Foster Peabody Award for her work on a special series by NPR’s Investigations Unit, which uncovered race-based secret mustard gas testing during WWII. Serna, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, was awarded the 2016 breaking news Pulitzer Prize for his reporting and investigation of the San Bernardino terrorist shooting Dec. 2, 2015.

Dickerson’s investigation revealed the Pentagon exposed more than 60,000 African-American, Puerto Rican and Japanese-American troops to mustard gas to look for racial differences in reactions. She explained that minority veterans who served in the military during WWII weren’t treated fairly or well. They served in segregated units, were fed different food, and slept in different places than other soldiers.

Caitlin Dickerson’s headshot
International studies alumna Caitlin Dickerson was awarded a Peabody for her investigative work. Photo courtesy of NPR.

“I think the story was good for [the veterans], in that it validated their experience and at least made it public,” said Dickerson. “There’s nothing we can do to change it, but at least [the story] made sure people knew about it.”

In addition to informing the public about the veterans’ stories, the NPR series helped inspire U.S. legislation. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO., introduced legislation last May that would make it much easier for veterans to get benefits.

“If that bill becomes law, it will totally change the broken process that we reported on,” said Dickerson, for whom the award serves as inspiration to continue reporting and striving to surpass her past achievements. 

“It’s a huge honor to win a Peabody. We felt like [the veterans’] stories were worth it and it felt really good to know that others agreed,” Dickerson said. “It’s also quite early in my career to win an award that big so, for me, I’m of course really proud of the work and I think it just excited me about future work.”

Serna earned his Pulitzer for breaking news reporting late last year. The L.A. Times reporter was the first to break the news of the San Bernardino shooting after fire officials confirmed reports of the shooting on Twitter. Serna follows hundreds of different law enforcement agencies on the social media platform so he’s used to seeing shootings on his Twitter feed. However, it was a second tweet that said 20 people were wounded that caught his attention. “Once you saw that many victims, no matter what the situation, that stands out,” he said.

Joseph Serna’s headshot
Alumnus Joe Serna won a Pulitzer for his breaking news reporting. Photo courtesy of the L.A. Times.

Although Serna was not in the field while reporting the San Bernardino shooting, he chased the story from his desk. He was flooded with information and people asking him questions about what was happening, but he remained disciplined and digested the information first to prevent misinformation from spreading.

“There’s just a lot of emotion and a lot of sensitivity and a lot of raw nerves, and you have to be aware of all that and be careful how you conduct yourself,” said Serna. 

At first, Serna didn’t believe that he had won the Pulitzer, but after some time, Serna embraced the win. “I felt a real sense of pride for the paper because it’s been tough at The Times for a long time and [the Pulitzer] was a good reminder that we can all still do good work,” he said.

Moving forward, Serna wants to continue his career in watchdog journalism. “I’m kind of a hard news reporter to my bones, so I like to hold truth to power,” he said.

LB Bridge to be Named After LBSU Hall of Famer

Joan Van Blom, the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic medal in rowing, will be immortalized on the Alamitos Bay Bridge. The California Legislature recently passed legislation to rename the structure after the LBSU Hall of Fame rower.

Close-up of Joan’s silver medals.
Two-time Olympic silver medalist Joan Lind Van Blom showed off her medals last year.

Van Blom, who died last year from brain cancer, won a silver medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and another silver at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. She has been called arguably the greatest female rower in American history.

“From the Olympic stage to the classroom, Joan Lind Van Blom was a woman who displayed great courage and a commitment to uplift her country and community,” Sen. Janet Nguyen said in a published statement.

Van Lind Blom first joined the Long Beach Rowing Association and started the women’s rowing program at CSULB in 1970. She was inducted into the 49er Athletics Hall of Fame, Century Club and National Rowing Hall of Fame.

The Alamitos Bay Bridge, located between Second Street and Loynes Drive, currently is under repair after being declared seismically unsafe. The city is planning a renaming ceremony in the near future.

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