CSUMB FOUNDING FACULTY ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
August 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of CSUMB - California State University Monterey Bay. In August 1995, President William J. Clinton officially inaugurated the campus marking the conversion of part of Fort Ord into a university. That same month, CSUMB opened its doors to its first cohort of six hundred students across all four undergraduate and post-baccalaureate years. CSUMB was not afforded the four to five years of advanced planning that customarily precede the opening of a new university, but rather had 8 months from the time the first faculty arrived until the start of classes.
The years 1995-1998 were foundational to implementing the core vision and mission of the university. The university’s remarkable Vision Statement -- committed to historically underserved populations in higher education, interdisciplinary approaches to world problems, global interdependence, reciprocal and learning-centered pedagogies that are deeply engaged with local communities, the importance of multicultural assets and much more --, attracted faculty from all over the country. These were heady and exhausting years of immense creativity and killer work overload. As we often used to say, “We were building the bicycle as we were riding it.” The narratives recorded for this project clearly speak to those challenges and their implications. They also attest to the faculty’s passion for and commitment to educational innovation in carrying out the CSU’s mandate to build a 21st campus for the 21st century.
A first tier of thirteen faculty, hired with tenure, arrived in January 1995, barely eight months prior to the beginning of classes. They, in turn, hired a second tier of twenty five faculty, most of whom arrived on campus shortly before the start of the first semester. As the student body swelled, the faculty also grew to approximately one hundred by 1998. Technically, only the first thirteen professors constitute the “founding faculty.” In practice, however, everyone who joined the professoriate in the first years were de facto founders and planners – of majors, university-wide academic programs, faculty governance, and other structures and policies. Hence, this oral history project extends the term “founding” to include those who were here the first three years: 1995/96 through 1997/98.
Honoring the 25th anniversary, this is CSUMB’s first formal institutional oral history project.* It aims to create and preserve a historical record, giving voice to the diverse perspectives, memories, struggles and achievements of the faculty, as it worked collaboratively and sometimes contentiously, crossing disciplinary and other divides, to build the academic heart and soul of the university. To launch what we hope will be an ongoing project, thirty four faculty members were selected: twenty four retired; ten still on campus. They represent all the academic areas: arts, humanities, science, social sciences, education, business, technology, social work, and service learning. They also represent all faculty ranks, including lecturers, many who eventually became full professors and a two who also became deans in the first three years. It is our hope that future resources will enable the continuation of this project, to include a greater number of faculty and incorporate the experiences of subsequent years.
As is the practice in oral history, these interviews are structured as conversations rather than questionnaire interviews. Narrators were asked to recall and reflect upon seven main topics:
- Motivation for coming to CSUMB and Stories of Arrival
- Academic Assignment, Job Description, and Desired Contributions
- Interpreting and Enacting the Vision
- The Campus Culture - Work and Creativity in the Early Years
- Key Moments of Change, Struggles and Evolution
- Stories of Departure
- Challenges, Accomplishments, and Legacies
As in all oral history, each narrator took the conversation in their own direction, focusing on the topics s/he remembered as most meaningful. Memory is subjective, and some events are recalled differently by narrators in this collection. Together, however, the narratives form a mosaic of experiences, a symphony of voices that tell a collective story of those foundational years from the perspective of the present and within the confines of individual memory.
This project also has a unique dimension. In CSUMB’s signature style of collaborative community inquiry, the founding faculty interviews were conducted by founding faculty. A small group of eight, and one CSUMB alumna who is now faculty, came together in 2014 to design and develop the project and the topics of conversation, and conduct the interviews. They are Christine Sleeter, Marsha Moroh, Josina Makau, Donaldo Urioste, Frances Payne Adler, Amalia Mesa Bains, Juan José Gutiérrez, Kristen La Follette (HCOM alumna and now faculty), and Rina Benmayor, project director. This unusual insider positioning contributed to moments when the traditional distance between interviewer and narrator was bridged, giving way to more dialogic conversation and shared reflection.
The interviews run from 40 to 90 minutes each. All were audiorecorded; some in face to face encounters, and others remotely via a videoconferencing platform. Interviews were then professionally transcribed and lightly edited for clarity and readability. In keeping with professional oral history practices, narrators reviewed and revised their transcripts, signed release forms, and indicated how they wish their interview to be used or restricted. Restricted material is not publicly available.
Thanks to the support of the CSUMB Library team, students, scholars, and the public are able to access the interviews and supporting materials through the Library’s Digital Commons portal. The original recordings, hard copy transcripts and other descriptive materials will also be archived in the CSUMB Oral History and Community Memory Archive, within Archives and Special Collections, in the CSUMB Tanimura and Antle Family Memorial Library.
Funding for this project was provided by the offices of the President, Provost, and Dean of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. The project especially notes the support extended by President Eduardo Ochoa, Dean Ilene Feinman, and Library Director Frank Wojcik.
*On the occasion of the 10th anniversary, oral history students conducted interviews with faculty, administrators, and staff. These are archived in the CSUMB Oral History and Community Memory Archive within the Library’s Archives and Special Collections.
Narrators: Frances Payne Adler, Judith Baca, Richard Bains, Rina Benmayor, Manuel Carlos, Daniel Fernandez, Ilene Feinman, Juan José Gutiérrez, Sandy Hale, Chris Hasegawa, William Head, John Ittelson, Alberto Ledesma, Steven Levinson, Josina Makau, Betty McEady, Amalia Mesa Bains, Steven Moore, Marsha Moroh, Cecilia O’Leary, Seth Pollack, María de la Luz Reyes, Gerald Shenk, Janie Silveria, Brian Simmons, Christine Sleeter, David Takacs, Angie Tran, Paoze Thao, Donaldo Urioste, Luis Valdez, Qun Wang, Steven Watkins, Suzanne Worcester.
Interviewers: Frances Payne Adler, Rina Benmayor, Juan José Gutiérrez, Kristen La Follette, Josina Makau, Amalia Mesa Bains, Marsha Moroh, Christine Sleeter, Donaldo Urioste.
Transcriber: Carol Roberts
Project Director: Rina Benmayor
1995-98 Photography: Steve Zmak, former CSUMB Photographer
CSUMB Library Facilitators: Jeff Corrigan, Sr. Asst. Librarian; Robin Guthrie, Archives Specialist